I swear with my kids and we’re cool with that

June 1, 2016

And I’m pretty sure my husband may not actually side with me entirely. But can we all at least establish that if I was to cry, “oh f*ck it!” at […]

And I’m pretty sure my husband may not actually side with me entirely. But can we all at least establish that if I was to cry, “oh f*ck it!” at the school playground every single parent’s head would turn and give me, probably, a very puzzled look. “Did she just say what I think she said?” they would say. “Did she really just go there?” they’d debate and walk off hurriedly hoping I might just vanish into thin air. Of course I’ve never cried “oh f*ck it!” in the schoolyard (I save that one for when I’m wiping up Weet-Bix smeared over the entire kitchen floor). But what I do know for a fact is that swearing is still a big old taboo and if an unsavoury type (like me) dared to even utter one of those boorish phraseologies within ear shot of one of my children (oopsy!) I would to this day be considered a rather unpleasant, foul-mouthed mother.

A few years ago I decided to test the waters to see where my friends were at with their kids’ swearing levels. I figured I could make this embarrassing admission within the safety net of a tight clique at a casual barbecue. Well, when the first friend almost fell flat on the floor, I quickly decided maybe it wasn’t quite the best idea to tell everyone that my 2 year old had said the ‘F’ word. Many times. Now at the age of 5, things haven’t changed too much, other than some height and a scattering of heinous words added to her repertoire. Once, just after one of our first school drop offs I found my other daughter, now 3, yelling “bum hole” on repeat at the top of the school’s climbing structure. Of course I was alarmed and ran flat out through the school gates. But what I have found since we’ve started school is that we worn-out parent folk are loosening up a little – with our lips. You know… a bit like a sweet, delicious, swearing, burping, farting, old bottle of port. Maybe we’re not quite at the sculling-vodka-under-the-stairs-of-the-chapel stage yet (god, I can’t wait for that!). But we’re letting out a little more than usual, let’s just say. We’ve done our hard yards. We’ve leaped from the bed at the early hours so many times we wouldn’t be able to tell you. Oh the bums we’ve wiped. The wees in the bed. Yes, all that fun. We still fall asleep into our coffees at the office just trying to pay the rent. We are feeble, fragile. School pick up and drop off can be a real bloody bastard though, right? And don’t even begin with that whole morning-before-school starts thing. “Just have tuckshop, already!!” But it obviously took me a while to break the ice and broach this forbidden conversation with the new Prep parents. I didn’t just go right out there on our first day and say, “hey does your kid like to say ‘f*cking hell’ over and over because they know it stirs you right up?” No, I didn’t serve them that one till a bit later. You see, after a few months when things got a little more comfortable (and being the journalist that I am) I did start some light prodding. Mainly because I wanted someone to scream, “YES, my kids swear too!! And my husband thinks I sound like a fisherman’s wife!” And we both hi-five each other and laugh all the way back to our cars. penny-2 But while that hasn’t quite happened just yet a few of us are almost there. I’ve met single parents, FIFO (fly in-fly out) mums, two mums battling breast cancer, over-worked parents, parents who are on antidepressants, those who have no family support, parents with disabilities, and parents with kids with disabilities, just to name a few. I know some who drink a bottle of wine every night just to “deal with bath and bed time” and others who prefer a puff of that wild tobacco after the little ones have gone down. And there’s my daddy friend who sometimes gets up in the middle of the night for a swig on some hard liquour just to get himself back to sleep. I even know someone who has chronic pain syndrome (her byline is at the top of this page). Hey you gotta do what you gotta do when times are desperate, and when sleeping is a rare commodity. We are all just people going through some real horse shit stuff. Because life is just bloody hard, you know? And everyone has their demons. So tid bits just tend to slip out. Well, a lot. And I’m sorry, but it just happens. Maybe it’s in the blood? Could that be a good excuse?

“Mine swear,” I have since heard some parents disclose. “Yes I have heard the ‘F’ word a few times,” they say. “Trust me, mine swear,” some even say with hand on heart. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not a vulgar floozy from the back end of town (only on Friday nights). I went to an all-girls private school, I will have you know! And I grew up in a very conservative household, where my parents made me sit at the dinner table every single night. That was harsh! But like, life just got real hard and now I think well, what’s in a word, anyway? I have even had this discussion with my most favourite GP. “They are just words I cried!” somehow thinking that if I shared this with him I would feel so much better. You know, like when someone confides their deepest feelings to a priest through the hole of that confessional box thingy? “They are just words,” my doctor agreed; his sentiments I have since clung to with dear life. And I drove home that day, after my 100th visit regarding my spinal injuries, knowing that really words are just squares on a scrabble board. So maybe I’ll never quite know whether my doctor thinks I’m actually a raving lunatic (which I am) or whether he also doesn’t give two hoots about a messed up version of the alphabet, either. But what I do know is that letters are just a tap on the keyboard, some flicks of a pacer or lines from a Smiggle pen’s invisible ink. A quill swirling them together in a fashion that some stick-in-the-mud made up from yesteryear, pulling a few apart from the others and declaring them rotten, wicked and devilish figures of speech. Well this writer knows they are just words. And now some of you might, too. And let’s face it. When they say it, it’s pretty funny.  


Penny Shipway is a freelance journalist and mother of two from the Sunshine Coast who hates playgrounds, shopping centre kiddy rides and The Wiggles.

However, you will find her crying in a Pixar movie, singing Hi-5 loudly in the car, dressing her daughters up as twins, dragging them along a rainforest walk, and having coffee stops wherever possible. Follow her on Instagram @pennyshipway or visit her website www.pennyshipway.com

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